The King of the North and the Queen of the South: A Children’s Homily

Once upon a time there was a mighty king who ruled over his land and everyone who lived there with kindness and love. He cared about everyone in that kingdom and so it was a very happy and peaceful place to live. The king had two children, Richard and Sally, and he knew that someday, after he was gone, one of them would become the ruler over all the land. He loved both of his children very much so he had a very difficult time deciding whether the next ruler should be King Richard or Queen Sally. As he grew older, he knew that he needed to make that decision and quickly.

So, he had an idea one day. He decided that he would split his kingdom in two, with King Richard ruling in the north and Queen Sally leading in the south. Eventually, after the father had gone, they became known as the King of the North and the Queen of the South.

They were brother and sister, but they were not at all alike. The King of the North was extra nice to everyone in his kingdom who had a lot of money, who owned many horses and cows, and who lived in big and impressive homes. Unfortunately, he was not very kind to the people who did not have much money, who owned only one goat or donkey, and who lived in tiny homes.

The King of the North held large banquets where he would serve giant roast turkeys and delicious ice cream for dessert. Everyone with a lot of money and big homes and many horses and cows sat at the best seats in the room and were able to eat all the turkey and ice cream they wanted. The other people, the ones who did not have a lot of money, sat at the back of the room and had to eat soggy bread and sour pickles instead.

The Queen of the South was much more like her father than was her brother. She was kind and gentle and treated everyone well. In fact, she felt badly for the people in her kingdom who did not have much money and who lived in small homes and only had a goat or donkey. She let them come to her banquets and sit in the best seats and eat turkey and ice cream.

The people in the King of the North’s kingdom learned that it’s important to have a big house and a lot of cows and horses and to have a lot of money. And the people there like that did not much care for the other people who did not have those things. The people there fought with each other and were always angry and sad. The King of the North did not have a very happy kingdom.

But in the Queen of the South’s kingdom, people learned that there are more important things in life than how much money you have, or how many cows and horses you own. And the size of your house does not make any difference at all. The people in the South learned to live together peacefully and because those things didn’t matter as much, they learned to share with each other too. The ones with all the horses and cows even gave some of theirs to those who only owned a goat or a donkey.

Jesus told his friends that he would like it very much if our world was more like the Queen of the South’s kingdom and not so much like the King of the North’s kingdom. That means we should share what we have, be especially kind to each other, and do all we can to help each other out. That way, Jesus’ kingdom, which we call the Kingdom of Heaven, will be like the Queen of the South’s happy kingdom and nothing at all like the King of the North’s unhappy kingdom.

***

If you like your Gospel messages to be consoling, inspirational, uplifting, and make you feel warm inside… (and who doesn’t?)… then we are in a difficult stretch of Gospel readings right now. These are some of Jesus’ tough love messages and there is no way to sugarcoat them. Let’s just say they have more in common with soggy bread and sour pickles than roasted turkey and ice cream.

The bottom line here is that if you exalt yourself in this life, you will be humbled in the next. And vice versa – the humble will ultimately be exalted. This eventual role reversal, depending on which side of the coin you happen to find yourself, can be a tough pill to swallow.

Today’s message from Jesus is quite consistent with his theme of role reversal and the idea that the first will be last and the last will be first. This was probably best described in his famous Sermon on the Mount speech during which he said that the poor, meek, and persecuted will be blessed. This is a message we have heard and understand, though fully internalizing and applying it into our lives is not so easy.

But there is another dimension to this and that has to do with the things we do to differentiate ourselves from others. It seems to be human nature that we seek out our community, team, group, country, or class and want to defend it. There is nothing wrong with that but it also seems to be part of our nature to downgrade those who are not part of our group. This leads to divisiveness, tension, and conflict.

I like to think about our Heavenly Father as a parent who cares deeply about his children. If you are a parent and you care about your children, you want them to experience love, joy, and peace in their lives. The very last thing you would want is for any of them to suffer or to be discriminated against… especially by your other children.

Especially by your other children.

We are all children of God. And our Heavenly Father, through his son, is asking us to consider each other to be members of the same family. This is the Kingdom of Heaven, the City of God… and it’s up to all of us to build it.

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